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How to Include Print in a Marketing Automation Strategy

Like many terms in the digital marketing lexicon, “marketing automation” is widely used in discussions and presentations but isn’t truly descriptive. Marketing automation usually focuses only on email automation and never embraces integrating print into the marketing automation mix.  Adding direct mail is easy and combining triggered email and postal mail boosts the results exponentially.

 

What is Marketing Automation?

Before discussing why you should add a non-digital medium to an automated digital process, a brief description of marketing automation will be helpful.

Marketing automation is any practice that automates the marketing process. Automation kicks in when a customer or prospect responds to a blog post, social media post, or cold outbound email produced by a marketing organization. The prospect may, for example, respond to offers for a free download, webinar registration, or request more information. Marketing automation software (popular brands include HubSpot, Marketo, and Salesforce Pardot) registers the customer’s response and initiates another action.

While dozens or even hundreds of actions are possible, a few typical activities include:

Email Marketing: Sends an immediate email to the customer and schedules additional automated emails to be delivered later in the sales cycle.

Lead Nurturing: Any marketing communication intended to further develop the relationship with a lead or contact, moving them through the buying process. Organizations can track the engagement of these activities and personalize the communications based on behaviors, interests, and perceived intent.

Social Media: The marketing organization can track what their audience posts across social platforms, who shares content, and with whom they share it.

Analytics and Reporting: One of the greatest benefits of automated marketing is accumulating data and providing analytics and reports. This helps the marketing organization decide what is working for them.

What might be missing here?

 

Print and Direct Mail

As marketing organizations customize the digital experiences of their audience, they have a chance to create a more relevant and personal experience by adding printed direct mail into the equation. Direct mail marketing continues as one of the most powerful marketing tools available, yet digital marketers using automation software tend to ignore it and therefore are missing an entire touch point opportunity. Adding triggered direct mail with email promotion and nurturing escalates message effectiveness in both channels.

 

Marketing Automation and Direct Mail

Before adding direct mail to a marketing automation program, you must define criteria and guidelines of who will receive postal mail (i.e. those most likely to respond to the offer). Each criteria will affect a trigger point. When a contact meets the criteria, such as a lead score, they automatically receive a piece of postal mail that matches the actions they have taken online. An inquiry from a male contact looking at a specific pair of shoes online would receive an entirely different direct mail piece than a female who clicked on an ad for a luxury purse. A contact living in Detroit could receive an entirely different mail piece than a contact living in Atlanta, and so forth. The more personalized and relevant the printed piece, the better the response.

The underlying thread of everything you’ve read about digital marketing and direct mail is the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, when considering response rates.

 

When to Mail: Lifecycle Based Triggers

Direct mail isn’t just for nurturing the prospect to complete the sale. While the medium excels in closing the deal by placing something tangible and permanent in a contact’s hands, it also supports the relationship post-sale. Post-sale communications should begin right after customers place an order. Don’t wait until it’s time to renew. Marketing automation systems send triggered emails based on customer behavior or events. The same strategy applies to direct mail.

Events that could trigger a direct mail piece or package include:

  • Welcome letter or welcome “kit”
  • Printed thank-you card for placing a new order
  • Printed certificate after reaching a loyalty or rewards point goal
  • An anniversary card celebrating the customer’s first order, along with a discount or gift

A direct mail piece is the perfect, personal way to complete a sale started by a digital response. Print is also a great way to build brand awareness and loyalty by adding direct mail to the marketing automation sequence. Several studies over the last few years have revealed that direct mail integrated with personalized digital messaging can produce a sales lift of up to 19%. Electronic media creates consideration, but print closes the deal.

Print – It’s Worth It!

With all of the communication choices and channels, why choose print? After all, you need a designer, a writer, a production budget, and possibly even a budget for mailing. Is it worth that kind of an investment?

In a word, yes. Any other answer would have had you falling off your chair, coming from a printer, right?! Print has exclusive, unique benefits not found in its digital cousin alternatives including higher brand recognition and customer perception, more reliable deliverability, and the potential for higher response rates. Shaking your head in disbelief? How about a few facts to back up each of these claims.

From Printing Press to the Brain

USPS OIG Neuromarketing Report CoverThe U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General (OIG) worked with the Center for Neural Decision Making at Temple University on a study of neuromarketing. The researchers compared how consumers reacted to printed vs. digital communications and marketing materials, and analyzed actual physiological effects to measure the differences. They employed techniques such as eye-tracking, heart rate monitoring, and MRI scans to observe study participants as they interacted with both printed and digital.

This study revealed that what consumers say about how they regard printed and digital media and how their bodies and minds react to various marketing channels can differ.

  • Physiological responses showed study participants were more emotionally engaged and interested in the printed material than digital media, even though they grasped about the same amount of information from each source.
  • A week after they were exposed to print and digital ads, participants could recall the content of the physical material better than the digital ads.
  • Participants said they were equally motivated to buy products presented in physical or digital ads, but their brain activity indicated stronger feelings for the products and services advertised via printed material.
  • To test the strength of purchase intent, the researchers allowed study participants to purchase the advertised items and services. When it came to taking action, print out-performed digital.

Clutter, Staying Power, and Trustworthiness

Experts estimate consumers are exposed to approximately 5,000 ads per day. The vast majority of these advertisements are delivered via email, online search banner ads, social media, and television. A printed communication has much less competition, therefore earning more attention.

Electronic messages, like banner ads, have a brief shelf life. They vanish with a single keystroke never to be seen by an individual consumer again until an ad server decides it’s time to display it, based on bids for relevant keywords. In comparison, direct mail advertising lives in the household of the recipient for an average of 17 days (Mailmen), with 72% of direct mail recipients reading or scanning the mail they receive (USPS 2018 Household Diary Study).

The trust factor for print at 71% far exceeds that of online media at 25%. Consumers recognize that businesses who leverage direct mail and print communications have made a conscious decision to invest in that particular form of media for a multitude of reasons, and it doesn’t go unnoticed. It provides a more memorable, lasting, and trustworthy communication experience that is delivered directly into the hands of the recipient—with little or no competition— providing more of the following than any digital ad could ever deliver:

  • Comprehensive product or service detail
  • Additional useful content
  • Personalized or customized messaging and offers

Brand Consistency

Brands of all sizes and in every market segment spend an extraordinary amount of effort and dollars developing brand identities that include colors, fonts, imagery, etc. Turning their messages over to digital channels that provide minimal assurances about how their messages will look when delivered removes the certainty of brand consistency. Color reproduction and image quality varies by device, layout can be greatly affected by screen dimensions, and fonts are regularly substituted. There is only one medium that can guarantee that the recipient sees the ad, the message or communication exactly as it was designed and intended—and that is print. Reproduction is controlled and predictable.

Deliverability

Whether I send you a catalog or a card by way of the postal service, I am confident that it will be delivered to you and you will touch it and at the least scan it. In comparison, if I serve up a digital ad to you, you are likely to practice one or more “avoidance techniques” such as ad blockers, junk mail filters, unsubscribe requests, or simply ignoring and deleting it. The digital ad may have been delivered, but it’s performance simply doesn’t stand up to print.

In conclusion, yes, marketing via print is more expensive than digital channels. However, it’s clear that print makes a positive impact in ways that digital cannot. Want the best of both worlds? Connect your print marketing to digital marketing – include direct mail, email, landing pages, personalization, video, tracking and analytics!

Planning a multi-touch, multi-channel print and digital marketing campaign is in the DNA of Bolger. We’re proud of the talent we employ here within the Bolger print, digital, and mail facilities, and we are always ready to serve your needs. Print may require a budget, but our expertise and experience are free!